Chemical Engineering students win the Pratt Prize

June 14 / 138

Left to right: Vincent (Hauchen) Liu, Bill (Hiep Thuan) Lu, Robert Pratt, Frank (Yue) Wu, Fan Wu and Chloe Jack.
Left to right: Vincent (Hauchen) Liu, Bill (Hiep Thuan) Lu, Robert Pratt, Frank (Yue) Wu, Fan Wu and Chloe Jack.

The team, consisting of Chloe Jack, Hiep (Bill) Thuan Lu, Huachen (Vincent) Liu, Fan Wu and Yue (Frank) Wu designed a facility to synthesise ammonium nitrate.

The chemical compound is used for the production of explosives and fertiliser, and is vital for Australian mining and agriculture.

The judges awarded the prize to the team based on their innovative approach, use of cost-saving elements and efficiency optimisation in their design.

Companies closely guard their industrial processes, so the team had to use their existing chemical engineering knowledge to design the plant and equipment with limited guidance.

The Pratt Prize is awarded annually to the best chemical engineering project from a Victorian university, determined by an expert panel.

This is the third year in a row a University of Melbourne team has been awarded the Prize.

It honours Professor Henry Reginald Clive Pratt’s contributions to chemical engineering. He worked as the senior principal research scientist and head of the Chemical Engineering Section at the CSIRO for 15 years before being appointed as an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne in 1973.

Team member and current PhD student Fan Wu said the team was deeply honoured to be awarded the Pratt Prize.

“It is very satisfying to be acknowledged for the many hours of collaboration and effort we invested into the project,” she said.

However, completing the design project was a very challenging experience for the chemical engineering team.

“The project is very open-ended and there is no ‘correct’ design solution to the problem,” Ms. Wu said.

“It is about exercising good judgment and justifying your choices.”

Despite these challenges, she said the team regarded the project as an extremely valuable experience.

“It has provided a bridge between our backgrounds and industry. The knowledge and skills we learnt will greatly help us in our future endeavours, whether that be in post-doctorate research or in the workplace.”

The team thanked their design project coordinator Professor Paul Webley and tutor David Danaci from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering for their guidance and support.


The team will now compete for the Australasian Design Project Prize at Chemeca, an annual conference for the Australian and New Zealand community of chemical and process engineers and industrial chemists. 

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